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Odd Lots

  • If like me you stand amazed at the precision of the English language (which is distinct from the precision of the people who use it, which is all over the map) do visit Obsolete Word of the Day. Many of the citations are old slang and many words do double duty: A slype is slang for a man who talks much about seducing women but lacks the courage to do so. Its formal use is architectural: the connection (often a covered but not enclosed passage) between the chapterhouse and the rest of a church complex. Much more there; you can sink hours on this one. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
  • Here’s a gatherum of peculiar or downright gross sodas from around the world. Yogurt-flavored Pepsi, anyone? Or (urrrp) Placenta? Alas, Inca Kola is not mentioned, though it should be. (Thanks to Bob Calverley, via George Ewing.)
  • The title on this article is wrong (or perhaps some people understand the term “hyperdrive” differently than I do) but it describes a new twist on an interesting and mostly forgotten 1924 speculation of mathematician David Hilbert: that a stream of particles moving at greater than half the speed of light could accelerate a nearby stationary object without subjecting that object to inertial forces. That wouldn’t be a true hyperdrive, but a genuine inertialess drive would almost seem like one if we limit the frame of reference to the starship. (I.e., we could go from here to sunlike star Zeta Tucanae in a week or so from our perspective, though 28 years from the universe’s perspective.) This is mighty exotic physics, and if there’s anything to it, we may learn more once Felber’s hypothesis is tested using the LHC, or perhaps the Tevatron.
  • I saw a trailer on what may be an interesting new film comedy: The Boat That Rocked , which had been originally (and I think more appropriately) titled Pirate Radio. It’s about the 1960’s offshore radio pirates operating just outside the UK’s territorial waters, something that’s always fascinated me. I’ve been taking notes on a novel I call (or called, sigh) Pirate Radio, exploring the notion of untraceable Internet broadcasting through large-scale powerline networking, and that research brought the old UK high seas radio pirates to mind. Probably won’t write the novel, but it’s been a good excuse to read up on things I haven’t looked at since I read them in Popular Electronics in the 1960s.
  • Don’t miss the Steampunk Genre Fiction Generator. Stumbling through it with no malice (or anything else) aforethought, I came up with: “In a leather-clad Aztec empire, a young farm boy with dreams stumbles across a talking fish, which spurs him into conflict with murderous robots with the help of a cherubic girl with pigtails and spunk and her discomfort in formal wear, culminating in convoluted nonsense that squanders the reader’s goodwill.” Somebody else write it and I’ll pay a quarter for that!
  • The ice melt across Antarctica during this past Antarctic summer (2008-2009) was the lowest ever recorded in the satellite era. I’d worry a little less about rising oceans swallowing New York City, as much as I sometimes find myself wishing for them to do so.
  • I used to wonder how corn mazes are made (and still do, for older mazes) but if you’re doing one today, you’re basically going to need a lawnmower and a GPS receiver, and a way to overlay a drawing onto a GPS-enabled map display. Oh, and a large field of corn that you’re willing to seriously mess with.


  1. Brook Monroe says:

    “Your title is: “The Aeropunks”

    In a VR-simulated Victorian Britain, a young journeyman inventor stumbles across an otherworldly portal which spurs him into conflict with computer viruses made real, with the help of a female who inexplicably becomes attracted to the damaged protagonist for unstated reasons and her reference book, culminating in a heroic sacrifice that no one will ever remember.”

    Yeah. No kidding. I think I’d pay up to 37 cents for this one. Scary. Too bad the market for novellas dried up.

  2. zeph says:

    An interesting thing about obsolete words is how they reveal cultural preoccupations for a time period. I’ll see you one slype and raise you an octaroon.

  3. Aki says:

    Jeff, have you ever used a word “kludge”? An old word, but fits a modern context too.

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